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12 militants killed in Pakistan air raid: Official

world Updated: Apr 19, 2009 20:36 IST

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Pakistani jets and helicopters attacked suspected militant bases in a tribal area on the Afghan border on Sunday, killing at least 12 rebels, a military official said.

The air assault near Ghiljo area in the tribal Orakzai district came a day after a suicide attack claimed by the Taliban killed more than 20 security personnel in nearby Hangu town, the official said.

"We had information about the presence of militants in the surrounding hills," a senior military officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"We engaged jets and helicopters and at least four Taliban bases were destroyed in the bombing and shelling," he said.

"Our information is that 12 militants were killed and the final toll may go up."

On Saturday a suicide attacker rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a checkpoint in Doaba town, in northwestern Hangu district, killing at least 20 security personnel, officials said.

A spokesman for Pakistani Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, saying it was in revenge for US missile strikes by unmanned aircraft.

"We will continue to launch suicide attacks until US drone attacks are stopped," Mehsud's deputy, Hakimullah Mehsud, told reporters by telephone.

Extremist attacks in Pakistan, a key US ally, have killed more than 1,700 people across the country since July 2007.

Much of the violence has been concentrated in northwest Pakistan, where the army has been fighting Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists, who fled across the border after the 2001 US-led invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan.